Rugby League

Grand Final victory for Leeds Rhinos gives Kevin Sinfield a fitting send-off

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Kevin Sinfield fittingly kicked the winning points to provide a fairytale finish to his magnificent rugby league career as he led Leeds to a seventh Grand Final in front of a sell-out 73,512 crowd at Old Trafford.

The Rhinos twice came from behind in a pulsating encounter against Wigan, with Sinfield converting a 64th-minute try from substitute Josh Walters to seal a 22-20 victory.

Sinfield's third goal means he ends his rugby league career on 4,231 points, making him the third highest scorer in the history of the game.

It also means Jamie Peacock bows out with a record 11th appearance at Old Trafford, as well as a ninth success, on his 553rd and final appearance while fellow front rower Kylie Leuluai maintained his 100 per cent record in Grand Finals on his final appearance with a sixth triumph.

There were times when Wigan looked capable of spoiling the Leeds' party, especially through the efforts of retiring Matty Bowen, who has now lost in all three of his Grand Final appearances in both hemispheres, but they were left to reflect on a second successive defeat in Super League's title decider.

Leeds' hero was stand-off Danny McGuire, with two of their four tries which helped his side to a first win over Wigan in seven major finals and belated revenge for their defeat in the inaugural Grand Final in 1998.

Thankfully, there was no hint of the drama that accompanied Ben Flower's dismissal at the start of the 2014 final but there was a familiar start for the Warriors when winger Joe Burgess once more opened the scoring.

Second rower Liam Farrell took Matty Smith's pass to go through a gap and timed his final pass to perfection to get the Sydney Roosters-bound Burgess over for his 24th try of the season on his final appearance.

Bowen, who is returning to Australia, added the conversion to make it 6-0 but Smith marred his 200th Super League appearance by fumbling the ball from the restart and McGuire went over in the next set of tackles after touching down Sinfield's grubber kick.

Sinfield's conversion levelled the scores and Leeds struck twice more in the last 14 minutes of the first half to take control, although there was a touch of controversy with their second try.

McGuire appeared to knock on before full-back Zak Hardaker's offload got centre Joel Moon over - but the video referees ruled the ball went backwards.

There was no disputing the Rhinos' next try, which amply illustrated the quality of their outside backs as Tom Briscoe's run released Kallum Watkins up the wing and McGuire was on his inside to finish off for his second try.

Sinfield's second goal made it 16-6 at the break but the game was turned on its head within eight minutes of the restart.

Right winger Dom Manfredi, chosen ahead of England international Josh Charnley, stole the ball from Hall after he initially caught it from Sean O'Loughlin's high kick for an opportunist score and three minutes later Bowen beat four men on a jinking run to touch down.

Bowen kicked both conversions to edge his side back in front and they might have clinched it when substitute Larne Patrick bulldozed his way to the line - but he lost his grip on the ball.

A penalty on the hour from Bowen opened up a four-point gap but there was time for one final twist to a magnificent match.

Hall palmed the ball back from McGuire's high kick and Moon and Jimmy Keinhorst kept it alive for Walters to score and Sinfield maintained his composure with the all-important kick to restore his side's lead.

Not even the intervention of a streaker could distract Leeds from their mission and they held off Wigan's late onslaught to lift the trophy for the first time for three years and give their departing heroes' a fitting send-off.

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